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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
During the wars of Charlemagne, a valiant soldier had served for many years in important and honorable positions. His life had been that of a Christian; content with his pay, he refrained from all acts of violence and plunder, and the tumult of the camps did not keep him from any of his essential duties. However, he had frequently fallen into a number of small faults
ordinary faults of people of his profession. He had grown old under the flag, and had thus arrived at a very advanced age. The fatal disease came to visit him. Then he called to his bed an orphan nephew, whose father he had made, and he said to him: “I have no property to bequeath to you, my son; the only will I could make would be for my arms and my horse. I recommend you, I beg you, when I have given up my soul to God, to sell this animal, and the money that will come to you from it you will distribute to priests and to the poor, so that the former may offer for me the divine sacrifice and the latter may help me with their prayers.”
The nephew, moved by the scene before his eyes, promised with an oath to fulfill this last wish immediately. As soon as he saw his uncle expired, he took the horse with all its harness and led it away. This animal was good and beautiful; he liked it from the start. He began to use it for a few short trips, and, being even more satisfied with it, he did not think of depriving himself of it so soon, not believing himself obliged to carry out his promise at once. By thus delaying from day to day, from week to week, from month to month, he ended up stifling the complaints of his conscience and the remorse which did not fail to agitate him; so that he forgot entirely his relative and his benefactor, and behaved as if he had not known him, and as if he owed him nothing.
This had been going on for six months, when one morning the deceased appeared to him and addressed him with the most bitter reproaches. “Wretched man! he said to him, you took no care to do for your uncle’s soul what you had pledged to do on his deathbed! and because of your infidelity, your heart harder than stone, I had to endure inexpressible torments in purgatory. What shall I tell you to punish you? Now God has had pity on me, He has taken into consideration my sufferings; my soul comes out of its prison and ascends to the glorious abode. But you, by a just judgment, will not delay in dying, and your soul will go to the same place to suffer in my place for as much time as I had left to do if divine Mercy had not used indulgence towards me; and this in addition to the time reserved for your own faults.” With these words, he disappeared.
Things happened as he had predicted. A short time later, this young man fell seriously ill: he promptly called a priest, confessed with tears and told his vision. He had hardly finished it when he expired, doubtless going to accomplish the second part of what had been foretold to him, and to suffer in purgatory the torments from which he had not delivered his uncle.
Learn from this how much such ingratitude displeases the Lord, and how severe He shows Himself towards children or parents who fail in the holy duty of gratitude and who do not honor the promises made to God.